The Triumph Of Mediocrity
The position of Youth and Sports Minister ranks quite junior in the Moroccan government. But the incumbent minister, Mr. Moncef Belkhayat, has managed with a mixture of gaffes, brazen insolence and cheer populism, to give it some panache, although that pretty picture laboriously put together with an intense PR campaign is bound to come off when it comes to substance. But then again, judging from his fan base, substance isn’t Mr. Belkhayat’s strong suit. The perpetual candidate, kissing babies, holding hands, fondling the taxpayer’s money and hurling verbal abuse to his detractors, however, is a second nature in our minister.
He could have gone down in history as yet another bland minister in an otherwise average cabinet (and our ministers can be, even in their brightest days, very average people) he managed to gain for himself and his department a notoriety many of us will remember him for, long after he is out of office.
At first glance, our minister is “modern”: he is one of the only two ministers, and three public officials (to my knowledge) with a twitter account, and so goes the story, interacts personally on his facebook fanpage too. He has a business degree (supposedly from the best university in the world, ever) and extensive experience in the private sector with prestigious firms like Procter & Gamble and Meditel.
But the carefully-crafted PR picture he seeks to burnish falls apart when it comes to content: he has been frequently accused of embezzlement, cronyism, the works. And yet, still facing these charges with no risk to be impeached or otherwise. I guess that’s what happens when a minister is not appointed by his theoretical boss (the Prime Minister, by the way…)
His “Jebha” has no limit: originally an Istiqlal member, he quickly switches loyalties to RNI prior to his appointment on July 2009 as Youth & Sports Minister. He doesn’t seem to bother much about it, and has been brazenly clear on the subject:
La Vie Eco: Vous étiez toujours istiqlalien. Et puis soudain vous entrez au gouvernement sous l’étiquette Rniste. C’est de la transhumance de haut vol…
M. Belkhayat: L’explication est simple. Nous sommes tous, en tant que personnes, responsables chargés de bâtir et de construire un modèle de société basé sur la modernité du progrès. J’ai toujours affiché un positionnement clair par rapport à cela. J’estime que le RNI et l’Istiqlal se rejoignent sur beaucoup de ces principes. […] comme il y avait des équilibres à préserver, le portefeuille de la Jeunesse et des sports devait revenir au RNI. Et vu que ce parti présente une plateforme politique en ligne avec mes convictions, et de concert avec le RNI, nous avons décidé de faire une transhumance qui est mineure parce que je n’avais aucun rôle dans les instances du PI. Surtout que cela ne va pas à l’encontre des intérêts de l’Etat.
This opportunistic stance takes positively dangerous proportions when, prior to Feb 20 demonstrations, he claims on his Facebook board Feb20 activists are manipulated by lobbies targeting “National Unity”. (I suspect his “A+B” gaffe is in the process to become a Moroccan meme)
C’est la preuve par A + B que nos ennemis infiltrent nos réseaux sociaux et qu’il faut qu’on fasse attention. Je vous suggère d’entrer sur le site Bigbrother.ma qui traite du sujet pour contrer cette initiative visant notre intégrité territoriale. Restons mobilisés derrière le projet de société de Sa Majesté le Roi que Dieu l’Assiste. ALLAH ALOUATANE AL MALIK!
Like · · Share · 08 February at 16:41
In any standard-issue democracy, the best thing he would have done after each of his gaffes is to resign, but then again, he has no retribution to expect from his constituents; As a matter of fact, his is a constituency of one, and so far, he doesn’t sound irate about the mischief of little Moncef.
The #A8Gate has triggered some old animosity between USFP and RNI parties, the former accusing the latter of being an administrative party, responsible for the 1977 elections debacle (where Abderrahim Bouabid, USFP Premier at the time, lost to an independent-turned RNI candidate in Agadir, a UNFP-USFP stronghold) and earlier today, the Minister engaged into some very aggressive criticism of what remains a member of governmental coalition; The electoral campaign kicked off very earlier, it seems. But then again, his proverbial clumsiness sheds interesting lights on how our Minister deals with substance, and, among others, how he deals with figures…
According to the Minister, USFP should renew itself after 15 years in power. I respectfully submit to him that RNI has been a major coalition member in all governments since 1977, just the same as Istiqlal. He doesn’t get his facts straight on this one (and on many others) I suspect he has little knowledge of his party’s history, or any knowledge at all of government politics since 1956…
But the Minister also has problems with calculus. For sure, RNI party is a large political organization, and ranks fourth in terms of seats and third in popular vote. But he fails to see that since 1993, his party has lost popular votes. I submit, again respectfully, that he is not even aware of how many votes his party (RNI I mean) has gathered over time. It seems that in his mind, gaining one notch in terms of seats in parliament house necessarily means an increase in the number of popular votes. Coming from someone holding an Experimental Sciences High School diploma, I have doubts over his command on interpreting figures laid before him.
Now, in 1993 general elections, RNI carried 824,117 popular votes. In 2007, they managed to deliver only 447,244. By contrast, USFP (and Istiqlal for 1993) carried respectively 1,580,723 votes and 408,945. Now, while the minister is right about USFP electorate in decline, his statement about RNI on the rise can hardly stand when one considers the graph below; The minister seems to forget that all major political parties lost votes between 2002 and 2007, and that losing less than one’s competitor is hardly a feat to speak of. On the other hand, he made that extraordinary claim that I should “take into account some changes” in my figures on popular votes. I wonder how, since the numbers I have put before him are actual popular votes, and are, on top of it, official figures only hardcore nihilists would gainsay. Perhaps the Minister is thinking of reversing himself and defect to the Nihilist side, who knows?
I have to give credit to Minister Belkhayat. This morning, our tweets-exchange was a fruitful meeting of minds. But then again, he really doesn’t know how to defend himself, or perhaps he didn’t think he was going to be discussing technical matters with a very thorough observer and student of Moroccan politics. I understood, from our exchange, that he has only a superficial knowledge of his (supposedly) party’s electoral score over the last two decades, or indeed how the ballot system can create discrepancies between the number of seats and carried popular vote. He also seemed very shaky on more fundamental, macro-economic facts (that was on an earlier exchange on Twitter too) and made that extraordinary claim on USFP failure in privatizing public assets (an irony, given the minister’s own self-proclaimed economic entrepreneurial neo-liberalism)
Again, I fail to find elements buttressing his claim on the total cost of privatization. My argument goes as follows: first, if RNI ministers felt so strongly about privatizing Maroc Telecom, Régie des Tabacs and other public assets between 1998 and 2002, why didn’t they threaten to resign their offices? And how come a party member supposedly embracing supply-side and trickle-down economics rail against such a sound economic policy, from his own ideological point of view? And does he realize he makes a fool of himself by denouncing Maroc Telecom Privatization, and at the same time praise the dividends it generates?
The second argument, already made superfluous by the minister’s very distinguishable flip-flopping, is based on sound data from Bank Al Maghrib: Since 2001 nothing on the Central Bank’s deposits and engagements abroad indicate inflationary exposure, nothing indeed in the vicinity of what the minister referred to (around MAD 10Bn) BAM net foreign reserves have increased steadily at an annual average rate of 5.63% between December 2001 and July 2011. For the record, Régie des Tabacs-Altadis paid some MAD 7Bn to the Finances Ministry, and IAM MAD 3Bn, a total of MAD 10Bn the Minister mistakenly referred to as a drain on public finances.
And finally, I suspect the minister has been behind the extraordinary claim Makassib.ma made on improving minimum wage, and the implication on purchasing power and standards of living. He claims minimum wage increased in real terms. If he is referring to the 2.37% real increase in favour of the bottom 10%, while the über-rich enjoyed a 37% increase in paid dividends, then, yes, there is an improvement in purchasing power.
Our 41 years-old Minister has frequently been portrayed as a young-generation politician, easygoing, forthcoming and tech-savyy. I suggest we have been issued instead with a juvenile version of old style politics. And he doesn’t do his homework very well, too.
Let us now sit back and enjoy our political virtuoso at work: